World Rowing becomes first sporting body to pledge to protect World Heritage sites

Posted on 26 January 2018

A fortnight before the next Olympic Games begin in South Korea, the world’s oldest international sports federation, World Rowing (FISA), today became the first sporting body to pledge to protect World Heritage sites and their buffer zones.
Gland, Switzerland (26 January 2018) – A fortnight before the next Olympic Games begin in South Korea, the world’s oldest international sports federation, World Rowing (FISA), today became the first sporting body to pledge to protect World Heritage sites and their buffer zones.

WWF welcomes this landmark commitment and calls for other sports bodies to follow World Rowing’s lead. By ensuring its events and rowing activities under its control will not negatively impact on UNESCO World Heritage sites, World Rowing is setting a new standard in sustainable sports management and demonstrating the critical role that all sports organisations can play in safeguarding the world’s most iconic places.

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, said:

“UNESCO World Heritage sites are some of our planet’s most special places. Unfortunately, many are under threat, including from sports events and sports-related infrastructure. In pledging to protect World Heritage sites, the World Rowing Federation is showing real leadership. Our favourite sports must not risk these irreplaceable areas and their outstanding value to people and nature.”

Jean-Christophe Rolland, President of World Rowing, said:

“As rowing is a sport that is intimately connected to nature, we recognise the importance of protecting natural sites.”

“World Rowing hopes that other international sporting organisations will follow in committing to preserve these areas of the world.” 

Mechtild Rössler, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, said:

“UNESCO welcomes this landmark decision. We look forward to other sport federations and organizations in charge of large sports events, such as the International Olympic Committee, also taking on a similar commitment and putting such policies into practice.”

UNESCO World Heritage sites represent the world’s most ecologically, geologically and culturally important places. Sport-related construction, infrastructure and waste can directly threaten the Outstanding Universal Value for their natural values and cause irreparable damage.

Taking an on-going case, changes approved by the government of Bulgaria in December last year could see the ski area in Pirin National Park – a World Heritage site and Bulgaria’s premier protected area – enlarged to 333km of runs and 113km of ski lifts. This would carve up Europe’s best preserved home for wild mammals such as brown bears, wild boar and wolves.

While the rowing venues currently used for World Rowing events do not impact directly on World Heritage sites, World Rowing’s pledge demonstrates the growing awareness of sports, businesses and financial institutions of the impacts they can have on our global shared heritage. World Rowing is the first sport to respond to concerns raised by UNESCO of past negative impacts by other sports on World Heritage sites.

“This commitment must be the start of a broader transition in sport. With the eyes of the world on the upcoming Winter Olympics, other sports must follow World Rowing in adopting policies that manage the risk of sports events and associated infrastructure developments on the environment. WWF calls on all sports to commit to protecting UNESCO World Heritage sites,” added Lambertini.

Notes to Editors:
- Images are available here.
- Interviews available on request.

For further information:
Scott Edwards | WWF International | | +44 7887 954116
- World Rowing’ Federation’s new policy follows a November 2017 policy to respect UNESCO’s ‘no go’ for extractives by the Church of England Investors and a major oil and gas industry body IPIECA recognising UNESCO ‘no go’ position for extractives as ‘an important consideration’ in their report mapping the oil and gas industry to the Sustainable Development Goals (target 11.4). Four oil companies Tullow, Soco, Total and Shell all now have policies to respect World Heritage sites as does the membership of the Intentional Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM).  
- UNESCO 2011 Decision on sporting bodies (in discussion on threat to Western Caucuses WHS (Sochi) link
- WWF’s campaign to protect Pirin World Heritage site

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries.  WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful for latest news and media resources
About World Rowing
The World Rowing Federation, FISA (from the French, Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron) is the governing body of the sport of rowing. It is empowered by its 153 member National Rowing Federations, the National Olympic Committees and the International Olympic Committee to govern the sport of rowing.
FISA sets the rules and regulations for the practice of the sport, in all its forms including elite, para-rowing, coastal, masters and aspects of indoor rowing. FISA oversees sanctioned World Rowing events and provides advice and expertise for the organisation of rowing regattas. The Federation also works on coaching education and other matters relating to the sport and its development.